The Premier League giants are keen to add some fresh blood to their midfield this summer and have made the Barca starlet one of their primary targets.
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"We have been joking about him joining United. Barcelona will realise that they have a great player, though, and I don't think they will let him go."
The Spain international has a contract with Barcelona until the summer of 2015 but the failure to participate for a stipulated amount of minutes in 2012-13 has seen his exit clause plummet from €90 million (£76.9m) to an attractive €18m (£15.4m).
However, his minimum fee release clause returns to €90m on August 1.
Thiago is a product of the Barcelona youth academy and has made over 100 official appearances for the Catalans since making his first team debut in 2008-09.